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Punchbowl Mosque will be unveiled to the public as part of the Sydney Architecture Festival’s open day
Credit: Courtesy of Sydney Architecture Festival

A celebration of bold and Brutalist buildings is the focus of this year’s Sydney Architecture Festival program, unveiled today with a renewed focus on the city’s ‘future heritage’ in its westernmost reaches.

This year’s program pivots away from the inner city precincts of years past to focus on a new festival hub in Parramatta and the unveiling of a revelatory new architect-designed mosque in the suburb of Punchbowl. The latter is very much the drawcard attraction of the festival: a contemporary reimagining of a place of worship steeped immeasurably in tradition by the Sydney-based architect Angelo Candalepas. Australia’s newest mosque has been largely cast from raw concrete and features hundreds of half domes, each of which has been punctured with pinholes of light and inscribed with the 99 different names for God in Islam.

It’s the second example in as many years whereby prominent contemporary Australian architects are reinterpreting the traditions of the Islamic faith in extraordinary ways, all the while remaining respectful of its underlying tenets. Last year, Australia’s eminent architect Glenn Murcutt unveiled his groundbreaking design for Australian Islamic Centre in Newport, Victoria: a project which also respects the fundamental principles of the faith-based building while forgoing many of the traditional tenets of Islamic architecture, like the minaret tower and ceiling domes. Instead, the contemporary Australian mosque, dubbed the first of its kind, sported unmistakably Murcutt flourishes redolent of his design signatures. Raw materials, open glass frontage and a surplus of natural light filter through a roof punctuated by 96 hand-painted, multi-coloured gold lanterns that reflect different coloured lights into the mosque depending on the time of day to symbolise themes including paradise, nature and strength, amongst others.

On September 30, Candalepas’s design will be unveiled at a free open day titled Meet The Aussie Mosque that will include guided tours, architect talks and a welcome feast offered by the congregation community to visitors; a panel discussion between Candalepas and community leaders will explore whether the mosque is beginning to develop an identity that’s unique to Australia, and whether architecture can be used a bridge mechanism to create connections between the myriad cultures and communities of Sydney.

In keeping with the theme of Candalepas’s concrete-clad reimagining of the mosque, the Festival is also placing a strong emphasis on the city’s fondness for concrete as a perennially modern building material and its Brutalist – an architectural movement that lasted from the 1960s until the 1980s – inflections across a number of architectural titans. Architect-led tours will take place around three icons of Sydney’s Brutalist past, including the much-maligned Sirius building in The Rocks precinct, the Surry Hills Police Centre, the nearby Reader’s Digest Building and the Masonic Centre in Sydney’s central business district. Those three tours are aptly-titled, Sydney, you’re brutal.

Per tradition, the Festival will conclude on World Architecture Day with a keynote speech this year to be delivered by the American architect and academic Professor Kristien Ring, who will speak on the benefits of higher density living in cities like Sydney. An exhibition, Finding Sydney’s Missing Middlewill address similar themes at the Festival Hub, where architects will respond to the need for increased housing in the near future with their propositions for the future of the Australian suburbs.

The Sydney Architecture Festival, now in its eleventh year, runs from Friday September 29 until Monday October 2, 2017. You can find out more information here.

Tile and cover image: Courtesy of Sydney Architecture Festival

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